A Comprehensive Curriculum for Cold Climate Grapevine Production: Practical Skills for the Novice and Vineyard Manager

Final report for ONC19-053

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $38,390.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Matthew Clark
University of Minnesota
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Project Information

The Minnesota grape and wine industry is expanding and contributes to over $80M in economic activity. Minnesota grape growers have expressed a need for introductory and continuing education for sustainable, viticulture best practices. This project will develop a curriculum that can be offered in-person, online, and then extended to other cold-climate grape growing regions. Sustainable grape production is limited by winter injury, disease, insect pests, and overall limited knowledge of plant growth and canopy management. Obtaining consistent yields and high fruit quality can increase the profitability for growers.  Knowledge gaps in pest management cause inappropriate pesticide applications that impact environmental sustainability.
The partnership will focus on collaborating with growers to host workshops for hands-on training and implementation of a targeted curriculum. Using grower fields will allow a curriculum to be "beta-tested" and modified in an applied setting in response to participant feedback and experiences. This will allow the curriculum to be modified and improved with videos, testimonials and images during the development. Furthermore,  participants workshops will be hosted in a way that participants can return throughout the growing season and over two years to see the impacts of field-based decision making. 
Project Objectives:

Develop a curriculum of viticulture training materials that focus on cold hardy grape production: 

  • Introductory content for seasonal workers and novice viticulturists
  • Continuing education for advanced viticulturists
  • Uses "Growing Grapes in Minnesota" as a guide
  • Use outreach workshops to identify knowledge gaps and
  • Beta-test curriculum with attendees
  • Make curriculum available to a regional audience

Improve sustainability of grape production by:

  • Changing behaviors related to canopy management
  • Improving pest management skills 
  • Increasing understanding of the short and long-term consequences of vineyard decision making




Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Teresa and Isaac Savaryn
  • Lisa Smiley
  • Tami Bredeson
  • Michelle Bredeson


Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

7 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
19 Webinars / talks / presentations
6 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

75 Farmers participated
6 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

This project has focused on using field days and workshops to teach grape growers on best management practices and to use those workshops for the purpose of developing content for an online curriculum. Because the workshops were successful with each partner, we were asked to expand some offerings to other industry stakeholder field sites including an 2 additional field days outlined below. Furthermore, we offered webinars to reach audiences across the region on timely topics that could be integrated into the online curriculum. We covered many of the topics outlined in our proposed plan of work.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we were unable to offer any field days or in person workshops as originally proposed. However, we did establish new partnerships for webinars and offered 4 with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW Extension titled "What to do now in the vineyard". Although offered live, the recorded webinars allowed asynchronous participation and will serve as a resource for other future needs including integration in our online curriculum.  These hour-long sessions attracted approximately 75 attendees each and focused on insect pests and disease, herbicides for weed control, and how to plant vines the vineyard. We also partnered with Iowa State University Extension and focused on 4 winemaking webinars. Along with the MGGA we produced a virtual Cold Climate Conference. The 15, 1-hour presentations were recorded and will be integrated into our online curriculum. We reached over 125 attendees at this conference. 

Field Days and Workshops

Grape Pruning workshop (3/23/19) Pruning techniques and Integrated Pest management. Hosted by partner L. Smiley at Chankaska Creek Ranch Winery, Kasota, MN. 63 participants

Managing Young Vines field day (5/30/19). Hosted by partner T. Savavryn at the Winery at Sovereign Estates, Waconia, MN. 17 participants 

Vine canopy management (6/8/19). Hosted by partner L. Smiley at Cannon Valley Vineyard, Cannon Falls, MN. 31 participants.

Pre-Harvest workshop (8/3/19) at Flower Valley Vineyard, Red Wing, MN with support from Minnesota Grape Growers association and repeated 8/19/2019 with partner T. Bredeson, Carlos Creek Winery, Alexandria, MN. 38 participants.

Summer picnic field day (8/18/19) at Northern Hollow Vineyard, Grasston, MN. 16 Participants


What to do now in the vineyard webinar series with U. Wisconsin:

-Grape Bud Break (5/19/21)

-Grape Bloom (6/2/21)

-Mid-season Q & A (7/7/21)

-Fungicides and planting vines 

-Bud swell (4/24/20)

-Post bloom (6/17/20)

-Veraison (7/29/20)

With Minnesota Grape Growers Produced the 2021 Cold Climate (Virtual) Conference.

15+ presentations that can be integrated into the online curriculum.

Crop insurance in grapes webinar (10/23/19)

Developing a vineyard spray program webinar (12/10/19) 48 participants

Development a vineyard weed management plan (12/17/19) 62 participants

Conference Presentation

Minnesota Grape Grower Cold Climate Conference-UMN Research Update 2/26/22)


Kanabec County Master Gardeners – Beginner Grape Growing Workshop 8/14/21

Development of Online Curriculum

The main thrust of this program has been to partner with farmers in determining which topics are important for grape growers of all skill levels, specifically novice/beginning farmers. We identified 11 key topic areas and have developed educational content: learning objectives, lectures, instructional videos to have a dynamic content that targets different learning styles. The online course leans heavily into video resources we developed, recorded lectures, and outside links. In particular, is the "Growing Grapes in Minnesota" book from the Minnesota Grape Growers Association that is now embedded into each relevant module. 

Due to Covid-19, we were unable to develop much in-person content in 2020. Using social distancing and best practices, we did record some video when allowed. As mentioned above, we captured many expert webinars that will be integrated into the online curriculum. We have already done this for the soil fertility and fertilization module. We have built the course in Canvas, an online classroom management software that is utilized extensively at UMN. Participants have enrolled in the course. They were first notified by email blast to stakeholder list serves, and through click-through on the enology.umn.edu website where a button now directs visitors to enroll: https://enology.umn.edu/growing-grapes-minnesota-vineyard-management. We have modified the Canvas home page for ease-of-use for non-traditional students who may not be familiar with Canvas, including a brief how-to guide in the site. Twenty-one participants are currently enrolled in the course and 13 others have been added to the roster but have not initiated the course. UMN Extension has set-up an enrollment page to help with seamless enrollment for users outside the University system. Post-card mailers and business cards with registration information have been printed and will be sent out to stakeholders or made available at upcoming field days and conferences.

PIs Clark and Klodd participated in the FRAME fungicide workshop for developing strategies for controlling powdery and downy mildew in the midwest.  Content for the curriculum included materials and links from our collaborations with regional professionals. 

Lecture Modules in the Curriculum

1. The Life of a Grapevine
2. Starting a New Vineyard
3. Managing Young Vines
4. In-season Canopy Management
5. Vine Nutrition, Nutrient Testing, and Fertilization
6. Weed Management
7. Insect Identification and Management
8. Disease Identification and Management
9. Wildlife Management
10. Veraison and Harvest Decisions
11. Pruning Grapevines in Cold Climates


Learning Outcomes

76 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

76 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

This project has held several field days, workshops, and webinars to teach farmers (grape growers) about different practices to improve sustainability in their operations. We identified several potential outcomes in our proposal which are briefly described below. In general, we have focused on management practices to improve overall vine health, use integrated pest management approaches, determine proper harvest timing to increase profits, and methods to improve young plant success. In addition to the live educational events, we have been developing an online curriculum for farmers. Sustainability plays a central theme throughout. We are using a learning objectives model to frame each of the modules. For example "students will be able to _______" (use proper cultural practices to prevent vineyard diseases; correctly identify insect pests; access resources such as the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide. We have been able to utilize and access additional expertise within the University (Dept. of Entomology; Soil Science) and from the USDA to improve the quality of deliverables. We have also established collaborations with U. Wisconsin for producing more joint webinars that will be integrated into the online curriculum. The PIs participated in a fungicide training workshop (FRAME) which increased their own knowledge and aspects will be integrated into the online curriculum. Fungicide use is one of the major negative attributes of grape production and can be reduced through resistant varieties, cultural practices, and improved pest management plans.

So far, we have reached over 100 farmers and/or winery operators (241 contact points) from across the state. We have focused on three key regions (Cannon Falls in the southeast, Waconia in central, and Alexandria in the northwest) where operations are based. The goal was to reduce workshop participant burden of traveling 3+ hours to attend an event. We had intend to offer additional workshops, but participants have indicated fatigue/burn-out with too many events, especially during the growing season. In 2020 we produced online workshops that were well attended (75+ people per session synchronously or viewed online). These workshops will be integrated into the online curriculum. Although not specifically SARE branded in 2020, we are exploring ways to use this branding in 2021 with our other collaborators.

The key outcome to focus on during this report is that "farmers will be educated on best practices in grapevine management". We provided timely workshops that had appropriate in-season activities to focus on specific practices. We used the in-person workshops to capture photos and video content for use in the online curriculum. One key aspect to improve economic sustainability for grape growers is at planting and the management of young vines. This includes proper irrigation, pest management and care across the season. With our partner, we offered a workshop and visited a two different planting sites: one new planting established on a hill and the second on a bluff. One specific topic at this site that was covered a discussion on the different practices to reduce soil erosion in these two systems. This is in a peri-urban setting with continued urban sprawl, so social, economic, and environmental benefits were also covered due to the proximity to residential homes and a large lake. A second example was a canopy management workshop held in early summer to demonstrate techniques such as leaf pulling. Proper leaf pulling can improve yields, reduce leaf/cluster wetness which lessens disease, and also is a touch-point for growers to be scouting for pests and disease during the critical time. Many of the suggested fungicides are applied in early spring, and canopy management to remove infected canes and fruit that were missed during pruning can managed during leaf pulling. We also discussed shoot positioning (including new methods being tested at Penn State) that are meant to reduce the time in the vineyard while increase profitability. The site for this workshop has move to reduced chemical herbicides, and we were able to demonstrate management practices to reduce weed pressure in an established vineyard.

The main outcome for this project is the development of training curriculum that teaches new skills about sustainable practices. This includes the transfer of research-based best practices that are used by the farmer-partners in this project. We have outlined a 11 module online curriculum with lectures that was evaluated by our farmer partners. We used their feedback to improve the usability of the Canvas software as well as fix broken links, and troubleshoot issues before making the course publicly available. In Spring 2022, we announced the opening of the course. We (Annie Klodd and Matt Clark) have directed many people to this course who have contacted us about starting a vineyard in 2022/2023. 




Success stories:

Developed a cross-state collaboration for delivering webinars with U. Wisconsin (Extension) as an outgrowth of this project during Covid19. 97% of survey respondents said having specialists from both states was beneficial due to combined expertise and delegated efforts among the team. 90% of respondents to the year end survey said the the quality and timing of the information in the webinars helped with decision making for the growing season.


In our conversations with growers and grape nurseries, we have learned that one area of need in our region is training grape growers on how to plant and manage pot-grown vines, in contrast to bare-root nursery stock. We think that SARE grant opportunities and communication network may be one of the best ways to reach the stakeholder audience and have an immediate impact to improve planting success as new varieties continue to come online.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.